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Smokies or BSF
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Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Smokies or BSF on 03/09/2010 12:35:49 MST Print View

Hi everybody. I live in the SE part of the country(usa) and am planning a trip for july. I have been to big south fork already, done a 40 mile loop there and loved it. What you need to know is that i am bringing my little brother(15 years old) who has never been hiking, but plays sports on a regular basis-probably in better shape than me. We are both skinny guys, and always have been. Anyway, i estimate our packs to be in the 22-25lb range when carrying maxium food and water at the start of the trip.

I need advice on whether a noobie can handle the smokies or should i opt for the easier BSF. I want him to have a great time and make memories that will last a lifetime, so i want it to be as scenic as possible.

So i said last time i did a 40 mile loop, and it was not difficult for me. I think it should be about the same for him. So, open to advice/recommendations on choosing a destination. What is the difficulty of the smokies like, i know there is alot of elevation change fast, but i like some height in the trail to get those good views. thanks everybody

Edited by isaac.mouser on 03/09/2010 12:39:06 MST.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
luxury of the west on 03/11/2010 08:49:50 MST Print View

I know that most of you live on the western part of hte country, judging by your bio info, what a luxury it must be! Someday i hope to live there as well. I recently looked at a map of the national parks in the nation, and its depressing on the eastern side of the country vs the west. But if any1 has an exerpience with the smokeys, please let me know. just looking for general info, recommended 4-5 day routes, etc. Expected weather conditions, terrain, bear spray and container necessity, etc. Im new to the are, so just seeking any info i can get. thanks!

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Smokies on 03/11/2010 09:29:32 MST Print View

Hi Isaac,

If you have already been to BSF then you should definitely go to the Smokies. It's a beautiful place. The link below is to a recent thread on hiking possibilities in or around the Smokies.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=29686&skip_to_post=249409#249409

There are endless loop possibilities within the Smokies and several different places you can get shuttles for reasonable prices to facilitate one way hikes. Some of the high lights in the Smokies are Mt. Leconte, Clingman's Dome, Charlies Bunion, the Sawteeth, Mt. Cammerer, Mt. Sterling, Gregory's Bald, Fontana Lake and there are many many more. I don't think you would be disappointed with any hike in the Smokies that you choose.

This link to the GSMNP backcountry guide has a map of all the trails and their mileages and it is a great reference guide to map out trails, distances, and camp spots since you are required to camp in the designated camping areas.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/GSMNP%20Backcountry%20Map.pdf

Since it will be your brother's first backpacking trip my only thought would be to be aware of the elevation gains/losses on some of the trails and to plan your day(s) accordingly as some of the trails have some pretty strenuous hiking. The views are the best in the SE IMHO, the trails are marked very well and water is never an issue in the park so I think it's a great place for a first hike.

I'm sure if you post some of your thoughts on potential trip routes you'll get some good feedback or other possible variations to hit some other highlights. Good luck with the trip planning!

Edited by trevor83 on 03/11/2010 09:30:33 MST.

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Smokies on 03/11/2010 09:40:10 MST Print View

Hi Isaac, if you haven't been to the Smokies, it's definitely a must-do if you live in the SE. It's also a great place for someone to have their first backpacking trip. Dependent upon where in the park you are, the shelters are nice for newbies if really bad weather hits, all the trails are signed and pretty clearly marked, the campsites have bear poles or food lockers to make protecting food easy, etc.

I don't have maps handy, so I'm not positive of mileage, but I have a route that's a favorite of mine. It would be perfect for you and your brother, provided you are both in shape and prepared to ascend a bit. Start from the Cosby access, ascend Rattlesnake Den Ridge (passing Albright Grove, one of the best old-growth stands in the East) to the AT. South on the AT to Tricorner Knob, then the Laurel Mtn. Trail to Laurel Gap, Mt. Sterling Ridge trail, descend Mt Sterling on either Swallow Fork or Baxter Creek. Ascend Low Gap to the AT, then return to Cosby using either the Mt. Cammerer trail, or Low Gap.

This route takes in two of the big drainages in Cosby Creek and Big Creek, old-growth timber, fishing and swimming on Big Creek, and the ridge between Tricorner and Mt. Sterling is my favorite place in the park. About 10-12 miles of high-elevation (at least for the SE) ridge walking with amazing views of Big Creek and Cataloochee.

The big concern would be rain. I've been on Mt. Sterling's summit 25 times or so, and I've had two clear days that I recall. Bears are a concern, but general bear awareness is all that's required to be safe. I wouldn't worry about canisters or spray, although if bear spray makes you or your brother feel more comfortable, it's very little weight to trade for peace of mind. It seems most of the problem bears are south of Newfound Gap, although Cosby has the worst bear incident on record in the park. Remember though that if you have a problem with bears in the backcountry, it probably has as much to do with your practices as the bear. They are curious critters, so don't do things to arouse their curiosity!

Have fun planning! Get your brother involved with the planning as well; trip-planning gives newbies some ownership of their experience, rather than feeling like they're just tagging along. There are so many resources available, but the first thing to do is go to GSMNP's site and download the trail map. It's an easy way to look at the layout of trails and think about potential routes and how they'll connect. See you on the trails Brotha!

Edited by cooldrip on 03/11/2010 09:41:44 MST.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
thanks on 03/11/2010 09:59:47 MST Print View

thanks guy, i haven't had a chance to read these, but when i get off work i will.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
ok on 03/14/2010 09:38:21 MDT Print View

so i had some time to read, i am considering both recommended routes at the time. AS far as rain protection we have diy 4 oz waterproof (mineral spirits and silicone-not hardly breatheable but doesn't bother us) pants and we each have a packa for our torso.

Concerning bear spray, yes i will be taking some, as it is the most concentrated areas of bears in the country. Look forward to more advice, thanks everybody!

Frank Deland
(rambler)

Locale: On the AT in VA
Great Smokies on 03/30/2010 16:42:22 MDT Print View

Do not worry about bears. The chances of you needing spray is next to none. They are looking for your food, not you. Even many of the tentsites have cables in the trees for hanging your food. I think there is 800 miles of trails in the park. Here is a book that might help:

http://www.amazon.com/Hikes-Great-Mountains-National-Second/dp/0898866367

Get the Nat. GeoG. Park Map. Look for loop options of which there are numerous many include the AT.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
bears on 03/30/2010 17:24:15 MDT Print View

"Do not worry about bears. The chances of you needing spray is next to none."

+1

You do not need to worry about bears in the park and bear spray is really not necessary. The Black bears in the Smokies are much different than say the Grizzly bears in Glacier.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: bears on 03/30/2010 17:47:46 MDT Print View

Black bears do not want to tangle with humans. They simply want to steal your food. Pure and simple. They don't want to deal with humans if there is any hassle. It is too easy for them to just move on to the next backpacker where food might be simple.

Black bears might possibly do a bluff charge, and that is especially so for a sow bear with a cub. The sow bear isn't going to go after you unless you do something stupid like get close to the cub.

--B.G.--

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Great Smokies on 03/30/2010 20:28:35 MDT Print View

+1 on bears & no spray.

Anyway, if your brother is athletic as you say, I wouldn't worry about any of the routes. Just make sure his shoes fit right. I did my first BP trip last summer in the Smokies (@42 and I sit behind a PC for the most part). 100 miles in 10 days. He won't have any trouble. Great place to do a first hike. I'd recommend the "brown book" on the trails, especially if you're into the history of the area.

Scott Lehr
(lehrscott4) - F

Locale: Louisville - KY
Northern Big South Fork on 04/26/2010 13:32:18 MDT Print View

If you havent been all around BSF, the Northern and Southrn sections are quite different. There are alot of good loops in the 13-50 mile range that start at Alum Ford camp ground about a mile from Yahoo falls. I love the smokies, but i love hiking along the river, and all the neat geological features around the BSF area.